Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Addendum to Top 20 Prospects: Preseason 2009

A couple more cuts. The Ducks announced that they have waived Steve McCarthy and sent Matt McCue to Manitoba. I had thought McCue was doing well in camp, but a move to the Moose could mean the Front Office was having trouble finding a place for him.

I was recently asked about McCue and how someone who has hung on this long could have missed my prospects list, along with players like Brittain and Macenauer, while a player like Salcido makes the Top 20.

The answers?
  • McCue represents the 'size=potential' logjam I see at the bottom of the list, of which Vaive is comically emblematic.
  • Brittain misses the list because he hasn't signed and the Ducks seem (inexplicably) enamored with Troy Bodie i.e. Brittain has a similar, more developed player (signed until 2011) standing between him and the Ducks.
  • Macenauer is a bit complicated. He came all the way back from injury and signed with the team, but I just didn't see the next level in his play (semi-confirmed when he seemed to injure himself in rookie camp). Ultimately, I can't wait to be wrong about him, and he'll hover around the bottom 5 of my list after a good showing in the Pros.
  • Salcido makes the list because the Front Office loved him, mentioning him in the same breath as Fetserling and Mikkelson. Perhaps a PR play to the Orange County audience, perhaps not. I saw enough potential to put him on the list at what was the likely end of of his minor league development process with the Ducks i.e. now or never.
  • Oh, and if you're wondering, Bodie doesn't make the list because I see giant holes in skill. The Front Office and coaching staff treat him like he's knocking on the door, but I just don't see it.

Reading through my reasoning in bullet point form, it feels very natural to me, but as my list differs quite a bit from Rob and HF, I thought I should describe my basic rubric. I DON'T rank prospects strictly by projected NHL skill, and I think even professional scouts find that task rather difficult. My list is geared toward the likelihood you'll see the player in a Ducks uniform, excluding players who've played their rookie NHL season (25 games). I use the following three factors to come up with a projection of the player's future in Anaheim:

1. Position in the Development Process:
The world is an unpredictable place, and a kid with a promising career can definitely find himself behind a grinder with a signed contract and a steady development record in the AHL-- at least on my list. Unfortunately, a kid whose maintained a spotless record to get himself drafted is also technically ahead of a player in the AHL who's seen a few setbacks (i.e. potential career AHL player). It's the boom/bust tightrope, and you can fall off at any time, no matter how much rope you've walked.

Will unfairly punish:
Players who experience a bad season in the Juniors or Minors.
Players from the 3rd Round or later (traditionally a longer journey to the NHL) who don't impress.

Will unfairly reward:
Newly drafted players who have yet to experience adversity in the development process.
Players who experience an anomalously good season in the Juniors or Minors.

2. Relationship with the Ducks Organization:
This turns out to be really important on my list. I am forced to show preference to the players that Anaheim calls up because the likelihood of them wearing a Ducks uniform is logically superior to the rest of the pool (and because the organization obviously knows the player much better than I do). A call-up and a modicum of skill will usually force my hand. Ideally, I ask myself, what does management think of the player? What do the coaches think of the player? Is his position/skillset redundant on the current squad and in the current prospect pool? Or is there a void that he will need to fill in the near future?

Will unfairly punish:
Redundant players.
Unsigned players.
Unsigned late Round draftees.
Players left in the minors for contract reasons.

Will unfairly reward:
Players called up for a final cup of coffee.
First and Second Round draftees.
Players signed by the organization.
Players called up for need, not skill.
Players hyped by management.

3. Skill:
Skill and its translation to a higher level of play are nearly impossible to evaluate accurately, even for the professionals. It's certainly above my paygrade as an armchair scout. Generally, I'll be conservative here: evaluate the toolkit and forgive very little in terms of flaws and shortcomings.

Will unfairly punish:
Overseas players I've never seen who aren't covered.
Players from leagues and systems I cannot evaluate effectively.
Players in the NCAA whom I feel comfortable evaluating at length.
Non-skill Major Junior players who performed poorly in the games I've seen.

Will unfairly reward:
Overseas players I've never seen who are overhyped.
Players in the NCAA whom I feel comfortable evaluating at length.
Non-skill Major Junior players who performed well in the games I've seen.

On a final note, I do my best with this list. It's a work in progress. I feel it's held up pretty well through Training Camp. Beleskey took a step backward, certain junior players like Warg took a step forward, but Camp is a short while and these players have until December (when I next update my list) to keep walking the boom/bust tightrope.

This was Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

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